HIS DAY OF GLORY

Jerry Kramer en­ters Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame

Packer Plus - - Front Page - Pete Dougherty

— Jerry Kramer fi­nally got the chance to give his Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in­duc­tion speech, and in so do­ing he showed why he has been one of the most elo­quent rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Vince Lom­bardi-era Green Bay Packers for five decades.

In his 18-minute, 15-sec­ond speech Satur­day evening, the 82-year-old Kramer read the short in­spi­ra­tional poem “In­vic­tus,” quoted the states­man and three-time U.S. pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Wil­liam Jen­nings Bryan, and of course told sto­ries about the Packers’ leg­endary coach, Lom­bardi.

And he talked about what most mo­ti­vated him to play foot­ball. Near the end of his speech, he ticked off the names of many of his fa­mous team­mates – Paul Hor­nung and Dave Robin­son, who were among the re­turn­ing Hall of Famers on the stage with Kramer; Bart Starr, Max McGee, Fuzzy Thurston, For­rest Gregg, Bob Sko­ron­ski, Ray Nitschke, Lee Roy Caf­fey, Wil­lie Wood, Herb Ad­der­ley and Doug Hart.

“Just an in­cred­i­ble group of guys,” Kramer said in front of a crowd of 22,205 at Tom Ben­son Hall of Fame Sta­dium. “We also had a won­der­ful team, I be­lieve a team that played as a team, and lived as a team, and en­joyed one an­other as a team.”

Kramer fi­nally was voted into the Hall of Fame 45 years af­ter he was first el­i­gi­ble. Re­mark­ably, he was a fi­nal­ist in his first three years of el­i­gi­bil­ity (1974-’76) and seven more times be­tween then and 1997 be­fore fi­nally get­ting voted in this year on his 11th time as a fi­nal­ist. The only play­ers who have been fi­nal­ists more of­ten be­fore get­ting elected to the Hall are Lynn Swann (14 times a fi­nal­ist), Carl Eller (13) and Hor­nung (12).

Kramer is the 12th Lom­bardi-era Packers player voted into the Hall and the 25th mem­ber of the Packers or­ga­ni­za­tion to make it. That’s sec­ond most in the league, be­hind only the Chicago Bears, who are up to 28 with the in­duc­tion of linebacker Brian Ur­lacher this year.

Kramer spent a good por­tion of his

speech talk­ing about Lom­bardi, who built a Packers dy­nasty that won five NFL cham­pi­onships in a seven-year pe­riod. One of the first things Lom­bardi told the team af­ter he first ar­rived in 1959 with the Packers com­ing off a 1-10-1 sea­son was that he’d never been a loser in the past and wasn’t about to start los­ing now.

“He worked us harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives,” Kramer said. “We had guys los­ing con­scious­ness ev­ery prac­tice, ev­ery ex­er­cise ses­sion, two, three guys would lose con­scious­ness. One kid show­ered af­ter prac­tice, got on the bus, went back to the dor­mi­tory, got to the line in the chow hall, passed out and fell over. So we were not real re­cep­tive to (Lom­bardi’s) philo­soph­i­cal com­ments. But he would talk to us ev­ery night about prin­ci­ples he be­lieved in.”

Kramer also told a story that en­cap­su­lated Lom­bardi’s tal­ent as a mas­ter psy­chol­o­gist and mo­ti­va­tor. Kramer re­mem­bered a prac­tice early in his ca­reer when the team was scrim­mag­ing on the goal line. The de­fense was dom­i­nat­ing the of­fense, and on one play Kramer had a missed block that led to a chew­ing from Lom­bardi. A lit­tle later Kramer jumped

off­side, and the next thing he knew Lom­bardi was in his face.

He re­mem­bers Lom­bard yelling, “Mis­ter, the con­cen­tra­tion pe­riod of a col­lege stu­dent is five min­utes, high school is three min­utes, a kinder­gart­ner is 30 sec­onds. You don’t have that? Where does that put you?”

Prac­tice didn’t last much longer, and Kramer took it hard. As he sat at his locker deep in thought about what he would be do­ing next – maybe go­ing to a new team, maybe leav­ing foot­ball – Lom­bardi saw him with his head down, came up and pat­ted him on the neck, mussed his hair and said, “Son, one of th­ese days you’re go­ing to be the best guard in foot­ball.”

Said Kramer: “A surge of en­ergy en­tered my breast and filled me. It was his ap­proval and his be­lief in me that he was pass­ing on in me. It made a dra­matic dif­fer­ence in my life. Ap­proval and be­lief, mom and dad. Ap­proval and be­lief are pow­er­ful, pow­er­ful tools. From that mo­ment on I wanted to play a per­fect foot­ball game. If he be­lieved in me, I could be­lieve in me.”

Other high­lights of Kramer’s speech were his read­ing of “In­vic­tus” and his

quot­ing of Bryan.

“In­vic­tus” was writ­ten in 1875 by the English poet Wil­liam Ernest Hen­ley about per­se­ver­ing through hard times.

“If you’re go­ing to be an achiever, if you’re go­ing to be a doer, if you’re go­ing to make some­thing out of your­self, there are cer­tain prin­ci­ples and cer­tain qual­i­ties you need,” Kramer said as he in­tro­duced the poem.

And then Kramer quoted Bryan about suc­cess: “Suc­cess in life is not so much a mat­ter of chance as it is a mat­ter of choice. We choose to do the right thing, and we choose not to do the right thing. So a great deal in life is a mat­ter of choice.”

Kramer played his en­tire 11-year ca­reer with the Packers, and his ré­sumé in­cludes be­ing the only guard on the NFL’s of­fi­cial 50th An­niver­sary Team in 1969, which was cho­sen by the Hall of Fame’s se­lec­tion com­mit­tee. He was the right guard on all five of Lom­bardi’s NFL cham­pi­onship teams and had a key role in Lom­bardi’s fa­mous sweep.

He also was the lead blocker on the most fa­mous play in Packers’ his­tory, Starr’s quar­ter­back sneak that won the Ice Bowl in 1967.

AARON DOSTER / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Green Bay Packers leg­end Jerry Kramer stands with daugh­ter Ali­cia dur­ing the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame En­shrine­ment Cer­e­mony at Tom Bensen Sta­dium.

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